Just the Facts

New faces added to chaplaincy, first responders recognized

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Deena Bouknight

We might expect that when a fire, automobile accident, or a natural disaster occurs, first responders are on the scene as soon as possible. Yet, also present are volunteer chaplains, ready to provide prayer and comfort – and debriefing and counseling soon afterwards. 

Three Macon County chaplains have worked together for more than three years – Revs. Bonnie Peggs, Davis Hooper, and Danny Antoine. But four more individuals recently “stepped forward,” said Peggs, “because the need has grown for chaplains in this area since we’re getting more and more 911 calls from Macon County first response departments. The three of us just cannot respond to every emergency call. There have been times when we were all on one call and another one came in and we couldn’t leave that site to get to the other site.”

The four new chaplains recently sworn in are David Hastings, Trevor Trammel, Rick Westerman, and Dylan Castle. 

MACON COUNTY first responder chaplains, who have worked together for the past three years-plus, are (from left) Revs. Davis Hooper and Danny Antoine and (far right) Bonnie Peggs. They were on hand recently to welcome newly sworn-in chaplains (from left) Trevor Trammel, Rick Westerman, Dylan Castle, and David Hastings.

All chaplains for Macon County first responders must receive ongoing chaplaincy training and become certified in critical stress management. 

Hooper, who has been a chaplain in different capacities since the 1970s and is a volunteer fireman, conveyed the need for more chaplains because first responders, “see all kinds of stuff … some suffer from PTSD.” 

He explained that chaplains will communicate with individuals affected by an incident and might stay on the scene for a few hours, if needed. 

VOLUNTEERING AS one of the Macon County chaplains is Danny Antoine (right), who presented a quarterly recognition award at the May 6 Town of Franklin Council meeting to Franklin Fire Department engineer Chuck Norton. Other firefighters recognized were Dennis Carpenter (not pictured) and firefighter David Rush, who was not present.

“But before anyone leaves the scene, we also do at least a 10-minute debrief with first responders,” said Peggs.

 “And then afterwards, 24 to 48 hours later, we are there to provide debriefing for anyone who needs it,” said Hooper.

“We’ve learned that first responders handle stuff better in their jobs and at home if they have a chance to debrief after an emergency,” said Peggs. “Otherwise, without debriefing, they can only stuff stuff for so long. More departments are realizing the importance and effectiveness of chaplains. We are there to listen.”

Peggs also pointed out that the Macon County volunteer chaplains, regardless of their personal faith and convictions, are available to people of all faiths during emergencies and afterwards. 

“We are there for them because we care. Now that we have some additional chaplains, we are excited to offer chaplaincy services to all of Macon County,” added Peggs. “We, as chaplains, are dedicated to walking with our first responders, who go above and beyond every day.” 

AT THE May 6 Franklin Town Council and Macon County Board of Commissioners meetings, quarterly recognitions were given to selected first responders for going “above and beyond the call of duty.” Among those honored were Franklin Police Department Patrol Officer Peyton Arnold and 1st Sgt. Detective Justin Norman, both of whom were presented a plaque and a $60 gift certificate to a local restaurant by Chaplain Bonnie Peggs.

Quarterly Recognitions Presented

Four times annually, “officers, deputies, firefighters, EMS, state troopers, and dispatchers who go above and beyond the call of duty” are chosen to receive a $60 gift certificate to a local restaurant and a recognition plaque. 

At the May 6 Town of Council meeting, individuals recognized were Franklin Police Department’s 1st Sgt. Detective Justin Norman and Patrol Officer Peyton Arnold; and, Franklin Fire Department firefighters Dennis Carpenter and David Rush, and engineer Chuck Norton.

“Thank you for what you do, all of you,” expressed Mayor Jack Horton, at the Town of Franklin Council meeting.

At the May 14 Macon County Board of Commissioner’s meeting, individuals recognized were 911 Dispatchers Alicia Pollack and Taryn Wood; Emergency Medical Services paramedics Dannah Stewart and Matt Reynolds; and, Sheriff’s Department’s Sgt. Nick Lofthouse and Capt. Jonathan Phillips. “These are not easy jobs, but they can be rewarding ones,” said Antoine, who also explained how important it is that first responders understand how much their work and dedication is appreciated. “These guys are often working during holidays and at all times, so one thing we (as chaplains) do during holidays is to give them a breakfast and fellowship with them. We appreciate them all so much. We are thankful for their service, and it’s a privilege to serve them.”